Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Skin-deep Life Lessons, Chic Lit at Heart

Way back before this blog started, we (you know, my we) all read Marisa de los Santos's debut novel, Love Walked In.  The G. girls and Chava *loved* it because the writing (flowery) is just their style.  Everyone else (including me) liked it because it's a solid romance.  The sequel was published around Thanksgiving when Batya was engaged (which I remember because I read it at her pre-Shabbos kallah in cl).  That one was not a romance, and in fact, did a good job of destroying the romance of the first book (okay not destroying, but certainly tarnishing).  So I was not that excited about her new book, Falling Together, since clearly, romance is not MdlS's first priority (she's got like a Ph.d in poetry or something so I would say her flowery writing is actually priority #1 :)).  And Huvi and S.b. read it over Succos and were both quite unexcited about it, Huvi saying it was everything we don't like about MdlS - overdramatic, too flowerly etc.  So you can guess that I did not have hugely high expectations for this book.

It seemed like Huvi might be right as I plunged right in to the "epic" tale of three friends-closer-than-siblings, at their center a girl supposedly wholly adorable whom I failed to find so.  To be fair though, MdlS acknowledges that she sounds annoying, having Pen assure her friend that, really, she is adorable. But on the plus side, the other two friends, (that's Will and Pen) are quite likeable.  And guess what? we get the book from their POV, not from Cat's at all.  I'm not saying that all is well with the world just because the characters are likeable - there's plenty about the book to be approached with skepticism.  The family drama, the overblown significance of little incidents, the similes I find more distracting than illuminating...

But bottom line, surprise, surprise, I think this book is even more of a romance than the first one.  First of all, we get plenty from Will's POV - a major plus, as we get nothing at all from Teo's standpoint, as far as I can remember (at least as hints of his love for Cornelia, whereas Will's for Pen, while never outright stated, is clear and obvious from the start).  And with all else that's going on, the book gives fair prominence to the playing out of the romance - so maybe I was wrong about Marisa de los Santos, she is a romantic at heart :) (one might say a chic lit writer, but I wouldn't be so cruel :)) So basically what we have is two likeable narrators and a good romance.  And not only that, I just realized this now, but a supreme lack of tension! All the uncertainty (other than romantic-wise) comes from not knowing Cat's whereabouts - but who cares about Cat anyway? Will and Pen are in good places in life, and not really in danger of losing them.  So as long as I didn't get distracted by those other things (see paragraph above :) I really enjoyed this book).

That was until almost the end.  The romance got somewhat resolved with a little plot still to go, and I didn't adore the way it finished up.  But that can be forgiven, indeed this is something I often forgive authors for, it being so difficult to do a good finish :) And after that was wrapped up, we wrapped Cat's story up - and to my surprise, I found that MdlS pretty much agreed with me the whole time - Cat isn't a "fairy tale princess" - or if she is one, she sure isn't perfect.   It's Pen and Will who come off good in this one -  Cat's going off on her own, and I say good riddance to her.  That was the end of Cat's story, but since the book is more about Pen, there were a few revelations to go.  I can't say they were earth-shattering, but neither were they wholly misguided.  Pen realizes the importance of love - can't say it isn't.  And Will realizes how important it is to fight for it, which is why he fights for Pen (don't worry, it was just a minor incident that necessitated that fight).  So it was all's well that ends well, though it could have ended sooner and just as well in my book.  Likeable characters, decent romance, and fairly non-intrusive life lessons.  I have to say, more the best of MdlS than the worst.

Verdict: 3.5/5

1 comment:

  1. To be honest i kind of skipped part of the end which might have been the better part. but i still go with my first opinion - i guess as we already know i care more about the writing then abt the plot. the romance was def good in theory but i just found it annoying is actuality and i couldnt have agreed more with the line "at their center a girl supposedly wholly adorable whom I failed to find so" - i think that was one of the reasons why i found the book so annoying - i couldnt stand cat and thereby found a lot of the other plot implausible